Noahs Ark at the Olympia Music Hall 1896

19th century urban New Yorkers were amazed at this masterful illusion based on the Christian Holy Bible.
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Noah's Ark Illusion Stuns NYC Audiences ...


* Technical details were featured in Scientific American magazine
* Biblical themes were very popular, even with secular audiences
* Olympia was the premiere entertainment showplace of the world
* Founded and built by famous Oscar Hammerstein I
* Audiences were left spellbound after each performance


By FRANK DEFREITAS for WONDERS OF THE BIBLE
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2019 | UPDATED: July 1, 2019

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PODCAST: Noahs Ark at the Olympia Music Hall 1896



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ARTICLE: Noah's Ark at the Olympia Music Hall 1896.

The world-famous Hammerstein’s 2,800-seat Olympia Theatre and Music Hall on Broadway at 44th Street is shown in this hand-tinted, glass plate transparency from 1895.
(above photo): The lights are bright on Broadway, New York City: The world-famous Hammerstein’s 2,800-seat Olympia Theatre and Music Hall on Broadway at 44th Street is shown in this hand-tinted, glass plate transparency from 1895. Wonders of the Bible private collection. Click image to view hi-res.

You are not likely to find anything about Noah's Ark on New York City's famous Broadway today … but at one time, it was the "toast of the town".

Hello … my name is Frank DeFreitas … and I would like to welcome you to Wonders of the Bible.

XXXXXXX EXPLANATION OF THE MAGIC TRICK HERE.
(above photo): STEP 1: The illusion began with what is meant to be interpreted as Noah's Ark on the stage. The performers open all side of the ark, to show that it is empty. Illustration from: "'AFTER THE FLOOD' AT THE OLYMPIA." Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, pp. 203–203. Wonders of the Bible Collection.

Noah's Ark, and the great world-wide flood recorded in Genesis, is perhaps one of the most easily identifiable events in all of the Bible. The most interesting aspect of this month's installment is not the illusion itself, but the fact that it attracted so many people from New York City's secular population. From every-day working families, to the City's upper crust … all were thrilled with the experience.

It was so popular and well-received, that the highly respected science publication, Scientific American, devoted nearly an entire page to this Biblically-themed entertainment attraction -- complete with stunning wood cut illustrations.

It didn't matter that the theme was taken from the Christian Holy Bible … translated from the Hebrew writings of Moses, and documented in the book of Genesis. In 1896 -- in contrast to today's trends -- Christian themed ANYthing was fine with most ALL people. The scientist was just as likely as the preacher to give the Noah's Ark illusion a standing ovation.

XXXXXXX EXPLANATION OF THE MAGIC TRICK HERE.
(above photo): STEP 2: The performers then begin to pour buckets of water into the Ark, denoting the great world-wide flood in Genesis. This continues until it is filled with water … or at least giving the illusion of being filled with water. I'll share more of that during the fifth and final step. Illustration from: "'AFTER THE FLOOD' AT THE OLYMPIA." Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, pp. 203–203. Wonders of the Bible Collection.

Before we get started on the illusion itself, lets take a look at what was once celebrated as the foremost entertainment venue in the entire world: Hammerstein's Olympia Theater and Music Hall.

Located at 44th and Broadway in New York City (United States), it was only two blocks from what is known today as Times Square. The main theater held 2,800-seats. And the building took up an entire city block.

The rooftop was just as famous as the theater and music hall. It had a 65-foot tall glass roof, and was illuminated with over 3,000 light bulbs. To provide electricity, there were four dynamos that generated 3,200 amps of power. These dynamos also powered a complete air circulation system, and pump, that brought refrigerated water from the basement to the rooftop area -- providing what was a very early version of air conditioning in 1896!

XXXXXXX EXPLANATION OF THE MAGIC TRICK HERE.
(above photo): STEP 3: After the Ark has been filled with water, the performers open windows on the side facing the audience, and begin removing various animals, two-by-two, as described in the Holy Bible. Illustration from: "'AFTER THE FLOOD' AT THE OLYMPIA." Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, pp. 203–203. Wonders of the Bible Collection.

Not to be outdone by any other venue, the rooftop also had trees, rocks, and even a stream that eventually led to a 40-foot lake. There were swans, ducks, and even South American monkeys.

And, while you were enjoying all of this, you could walk around the perimeter of the roof, and take in views of Central Park and neighboring New Jersey.

The cost of admission for everything, including entertainment, was only 50-cents! However, keep in mind, with the rate of inflation from 1896 to 2019, that same fifty cent admission price would be equivalent to roughly $15.00 today.

XXXXXXX EXPLANATION OF THE MAGIC TRICK HERE.
(above photo): STEP 4: Once the animals have all been removed, the entire front panel of Noah's Ark is swung down, revealing -- as Scientific American puts it -- "a beautiful, eastern woman" … reclining within the Ark. Illustration from: "'AFTER THE FLOOD' AT THE OLYMPIA." Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, pp. 203–203. Wonders of the Bible Collection.

Scientific American was founded by inventor and publisher Rufus Porter in 1845. Contributors of note include Thomas Edison, Robert Goddard, Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, and Linus Pauling -- just to name a few.

For those listeners who would like to look this up on the internet, the information is as follows: The title of the article is: “‘AFTER THE FLOOD’ AT THE OLYMPIA.” It was published by Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, page 203. If you are on the web page at wondersofthebible.org, you can see the step by step illustrations. If you are only listening to the podcast, I will break down each step of the illusion. As follows:

STEP ONE: The illusion began with what is meant to be interpreted as Noah's Ark on the stage. The performers open all sides of the ark, to show that it is completely empty.

STEP TWO: The performers then begin to pour buckets of water into the Ark, denoting the great world-wide flood recorded in the book of Genesis. This continues until it is filled with water … or at least giving the illusion of being filled with water. I'll share more of that during the fifth and final step.

STEP THREE: After the Ark has been filled with water, the performers open square windows on the side facing the audience, and begin removing various animals, two-by-two, which have survived the theatrical flood event.

STEP FOUR: Once the animals have all been removed, the entire front panel of Noah's Ark is swung down, and it reveals -- as Scientific American puts it -- quote, a beautiful, eastern woman, end quote … reclining within the Ark. Just moments before, at least appearing to the audience, the Ark was completely filled with water.

STEP FIVE: The "solution to the illusion": The animals are kept in a small compartment, located in the two, very fancy side panels of the Ark. The animals are removed through the front panel windows of the ark facing the audience. The woman is physically *attached* to the rear panel, which, in the very beginning, when the completely empty Ark interior is revealed, it leaves her unseen to the audience.

The answer to the filling of the Ark with water is a simple one … the water funnel on the top of the Ark is attached to a hose that runs down through the support beams, then empties under the stage. The water never fills the Ark in the first place.

EXPLANATION OF THE MAGIC TRICK HERE.
(above photo): The "solution to the illusion" is given in the step five illustration, which shows the animals being kept in the fancy side panels. The woman is actually attached to the rear panel, which, when swung down to reveal the empty interior of the Ark, leaves her unseen to the audience. The answer to the water filling the Ark is a simple one … the water funnel on the top of the Ark is attached to a a hose that runs down under the stage. The water just runs through the hose, and never fills the Ark in the first place. Illustration from: "'AFTER THE FLOOD' AT THE OLYMPIA." Scientific American, vol. 74, no. 13, 1896, pp. 203–203. Wonders of the Bible Collection.

Other than taking creative license with a few details (for instance, the real ark was never filled with water), it was a wonderful opportunity for audience members to experience one of the great Biblical events on the grand stage.

Perhaps one day we'll see a revival of the Noah's Ark Illusion, or a variation on the theme. In the meantime, I'm glad to have been able to bring it to you with this Wonders of the Bible podcast.

Once again, my name is Frank DeFreitas, and may God Bless You Today and Every Day … AND … remember to always love others, just as Jesus Christ loves you.

"Science is the study of the physical manifestations of God in action."
-- Frank DeFreitas (Click Here for BIO)

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